Customer service in healthcare

Customer service is crucial across industries, some more than others. But we can all agree that customer service is a priority for the healthcare industry. Moreover, healthcare does not deal with customers the way other sectors do. If a retail store sells a pair of shoes that adds an element of fun to a buyer’s outfit, while hospitals take care of the person’s entire well-being.   

When healthcare providers are dealing with patient lives at large, satisfactory service is a non-negotiable aspect of their treatment process. There’s no scope for negative or poor customer experiences.  

Let’s first understand why customer service is of the utmost importance in the healthcare sector

Why is customer service important in the healthcare sector? 

A pleased patient is more likely to seek your services once more. Customers who seek medical attention want more than just treatment; they also demand quality care.

Here is a list of statistics that prove the significance of patient satisfaction in the healthcare sector: 

  • Online reviews are a deciding factor among 94% of patients when assessing healthcare services. This indicates how critical it is for your facility to foster positive patient experiences. Positive reviews are an immediate result of excellent customer service.  
  • In addition, 84% of visitors trust online reviews just as much as personal advice. 

The quality of your clinic’s customer service affects both the client experience and its overall profitability. Moreover, satisfied patients are more likely to refer your business to their friends and relatives. 

Every healthcare professional who works with them operates as a customer service representative. Additionally, there is a potential to enhance the patient or consumer experience with each interaction. 

The statistics listed give you a rough idea of how previous patient experiences can impact your facility’s chances of treating new patients. However, it doesn’t include all the facets of a healthcare provider directly affected by unfavorable patient encounters.  

In the next section, we’ll discuss how poor customer service affects the healthcare industry. 

What are the consequences of poor customer service in healthcare? 

#1 The impact on the purchasing process and inquiry calls 

Customer service representatives are crucial to the process of a prospect converting into a paying customer. For example, in comparison to other types of engagement, phone calls offer higher conversion rates and higher average order values (AOV), according to 84% of healthcare marketers.  

In addition, 76% of patients made a call at some point while seeking medical attention. Patients frequently phone healthcare professionals to learn more about the service and the purchasing procedure.  

Patients also call because they appreciate the human touch of a phone conversation over giving out sensitive medical information online. During this inquiry phase of the patient journey cycle, customer service representatives are a valuable asset.  

Poor customer service might result in a loss of revenue since patients who phone to schedule appointments may opt out if they experience anything negative or frustrating during the call. 

One such frustrating scenario is when prospective patients are put on hold while trying to book an appointment. Research shows about one-third of callers hang up within five minutes of being put on hold.  

This means your practice can lose up to 1/3rd of its prospects due to a single frustrating customer service experience.  

#2 The connection between personalization and patient loyalty 

In the rapidly evolving healthcare industry, acquiring new patients can be a never-ending challenge. Consumers of healthcare have access to retail clinics and urgent care facilities. Small offices are often pitted against growing healthcare institutions as a result of mergers and acquisitions. 

We cannot overlook the need to compete for new customers, yet increased patient loyalty generates substantial benefits. It can be up to five times more expensive to acquire new patients than to keep existing ones.  

Personalizing encounters is the best approach for a medical practice to promote patient retention.

Research shows that: 

  • Personalized experiences make 49% of patients feel that a healthcare provider cares about earning their business,  
  • And 47% are more motivated to choose them when they are successful in personalizing experiences. 

Personalizing experiences can strengthen retention while enhancing your customer acquisition efforts. The ability to customize each patient’s experience within your healthcare system is at the heart of providing superior customer service.  

In direct contrast, if you fail to offer personalized experiences, you stand to lose over 47% of the general public’s interest in choosing your services.  

If you’re looking for the best ways to personalize patient experiences, the first step is to segment them according to their needs. Large-scale psychographic and demographic segmentation is essential to personalize patient experiences.  

In an upcoming section, we’ll go into more detail about this technology and explain how it can help your healthcare business. 

#3 Dissatisfied customers directly impact your bottom line 

Americans spend more than $10,000 per year on healthcare on average. Lost or absent patients might easily add up to significant income losses.  

Furthermore, institutions that provide “excellent” patient experiences have net margins that are 50% higher than those that provide “average” patient experiences. As a result, healthcare providers must review the comprehensive patient experience. 

For each additional point in patient satisfaction, hospitals reported a 0.2% improvement in net operating profit margins. Critical access hospitals were left out of the dataset, which increased the margin by twofold to 0.4% per point. Hospitals won’t achieve their HCAHPS or revenue targets without a culture that prioritizes patients. 

The price of even one unpleasant experience may be high. Let’s say you lose the support of a 38-year-old woman. There is a domino effect because she could not be making a choice just for herself but also for her partner, her kids, and possibly her parents.  

Besides, experts state that even one unresponsive emergency room nurse might cost your facility $250,000 in lost earnings. Poor customer service brings critical consequences for your bottom line. For every dissatisfied patient who voices his or her displeasure to your team, several others will remain silent and never return to your facility.  

With the advent of social media, there is a good chance that patient unhappiness may manifest itself in the form of angry tweets, rants, and unfavorable reviews.  

As we’ve previously mentioned, reviews directly impact the chances of you receiving new patients when they’re looking for providers online. These are some of the negative consequences you will experience as a result of poorly equipped customer service touchpoints.  

But why do patients rely on customer service to such a significant extent when choosing a healthcare provider? Why is it so important in healthcare when compared to other businesses?  

The significance of customer service in the healthcare sector from a patient’s perspective

  • Visiting a healthcare provider can be an overwhelming and anxiety-inducing experience for most patients. The discomfort of the patient’s underlying condition and a lack of awareness creates a cocktail of nervous energy among most people. Informative, cooperative, and compassionate customer service representatives are essential to help reduce feelings of unease when a prospect enters the patient journey.  
  • Poor customer service can literally spell the difference between life and death for critically ill patients. Patients desire care that goes beyond treatments. They expect healthcare organizations and their staff to convey during every encounter that they care about the person’s needs, conditions, and well-being.     
  • Moreover, most of us know how much products and services cost beforehand when we decide to buy something. In contrast, healthcare treatments can often vary from patient to patient. The fact that there’s a good probability they’ll be paying a sizable sum for it makes patients much more intent on receiving the finest care available. Shoddy customer service can easily influence patients to switch providers because they may feel like they aren’t getting their money’s worth. 
  • Patients and their families experience significant stress due to health issues. A provider who conveys compassion in addition to information can immensely impact how a patient feels about their care. Healthcare professionals that provide exceptional patient care go out of their way to comprehend what their patients are going through, show them sensitivity, and do everything in their power to make them feel at ease.  

Doing these things can foster meaningful positive experiences in the lives of those you treat. You will make a genuine difference in how people perceive healthcare procedures and respond to illnesses when you build an environment of compassionate care.  

Now that we know why patients care so much about customer service, let’s look at signs of poor customer service and how you can fix them if you find them in your facility.  

Signs of poor customer service 

1. Lengthy wait times 

According to recent data, it takes about 26 days for a new patient to schedule an appointment with a physician in 2022. This is an increase of 8% since 2017 and a 24% increase since 2004.  

Moreover, after that patient enters the building, it takes an additional 19 minutes to meet a provider. Due to backups that occur earlier in the day, patients frequently complain that they must wait excessively long in waiting areas for their scheduled consultations.  

Sadly, there aren’t many solutions for this in busy clinics. Nevertheless, you can make the wait more bearable by automating appointment scheduling to minimize errors and offer your waiting patients amenities and transparency by informing them ahead of time about how long they will need to wait for an appointment.  

However, wait times must never exceed what you forecast for your institution. There is a grave issue if you notice persistent delays and patients depart before receiving any assistance.  

There’s a high chance these patients will leave bad reviews and ratings about your hospital’s extensive wait times. This, in turn, will lead to a drop in leads who notice such a review, as nobody wants to waste their time waiting for urgent care.  

2. Appointment scheduling conflicts 

Every healthcare facility must wisely schedule and manage appointments in a way where they’re ensuring full occupancy. But for patients who just want to receive care as soon as possible, the procedure can be challenging, perplexing, or upsetting.  

They could have to wait a long time to speak to someone on the phone, or they might not be able to postpone an appointment without incurring a fee.   

If you notice the number of appointments decreasing day by day, there’s a high chance it’s because leads are dissatisfied with the quality of your customer service.   

Implementing responsive customer service representatives across all channels is essential to ensure such conflicts don’t take place during the scheduling process. This is the stage of a patient journey where they convert from a lead to a purchasing customer.  

Your revenue will suffer if you miss out on a lead at this point because there aren’t enough active customer support agents. Reducing wait times is an imperative aspect of carrying out seamless appointment scheduling.  

But if a lead calls a representative inquiring about an appointment, the responding agent should be fully prepared to provide them with all the necessary information. Training agents to take up active listening roles and help speed up the appointment scheduling process can improve the situation. 

3. Challenges during payment processes 

Medical bills can be difficult to understand, and health insurance is infamously complicated. A patient may decide against returning for follow-up care if they are uncertain about what they owe or what their insurance will cover after obtaining treatment.  

The best thing you can do in this situation is to describe your invoicing and insurance process as clearly and plainly as you can, keeping in mind that it could be perplexing to those unfamiliar with it.  

Your medical billing software vendor should provide top-notch support services to ensure your team has a solution for any operational issues or comprehension challenges.  

Providers with limited or no access to good customer service frequently struggle to optimize their software and make the most of it. If your patients struggle to pay bills even when they’re well-off, you must take steps toward enhancing your billing process.  

Additionally, providing patients with their chosen payment platform may facilitate the process for them to pay for care during emergency operations.  

Patients may become impatient with drawn-out payment procedures, and the amount of paperwork they must fill out may slow down the delivery of service. Digital forms and e-signature platforms are great alternatives during such situations.  

4. Lack of time spent with in-house physician 

According to a study of 2018 figures, the average U.S. doctor sees a patient for between 13 and 24 minutes. Additionally, when consulting their doctor, 1 in 4 people spend less than 12 minutes making conversation.  

If a significant portion of your patient population spends less than 12 minutes with your physicians, this is a reliable indication of poor customer service.  

Most patients want as much time as possible with their doctor to ask questions, learn more about their illness, and receive as much reassurance or guidance as possible.  

There is a discrepancy since most hospitals try to treat as many patients as possible in a short period. Therefore, it’s crucial to strike a delicate balance between efficiency and avoiding driving patients out the door. 

Little time spent with the practitioner can mean multiple things in different situations. But oftentimes it is because a patient does not feel heard and internally decides to go elsewhere for treatment.  

The best way to figure out the reason for such short consultation periods is to ask patients to submit feedback about the appointment.  

5. Scattered information across departments 

When several healthcare organizations and/or healthcare professionals do not communicate effectively, it leads to fragmented care. The lack of communication is a result of each healthcare practitioner operating independently.  

Misaligned teams, rules and regulations, data management, and training all contribute to the perpetuation of these silos. Patients with complicated medical needs must interact with healthcare professionals from many organizations.  

Professionals typically exclusively interact with coworkers from their own teams. In actuality, care coordination is frequently disrupted when it becomes necessary to interact with inter-departmental colleagues.  

This makes it difficult for doctors to coordinate the care of patients with several complex problems effectively. It can be hard to communicate patient information across different teams. But integrating such information and sharing it within one clinic should not be a challenge.  

If you notice a fragmentation or scatter of information within your healthcare facility, it is time to take steps to change the situation. High-quality customer service requires doctors to be aware of their patient’s conditions, especially if they’re returning customers. 

Hospitals and other healthcare organizations implement a Healthcare CRM, such as LeadSquared, which can be seamlessly integrated with their EHR system to ensure that data and patient inflow flows across teams seamlessly. Data can be accessed by viewing patient details or accessing the departmental healthcare dashboards. 

Strategies to improve customer service in your healthcare system 

Strategies to improve customer service in healthcare

1. Omnichannel technology for improved communication 

Patients may contact your clinic or medical facility via calls and messages, email, live chat, communication channels, social networks, or web portals. Using responsive agents across all these channels can significantly improve your customer service quality. 

Chatbots are another effective way to enhance digital communication. These bots can also help make essential healthcare information obtainable to patients in need at the right time. They serve as a virtual assistant to enable self-care and deliver prompt medical advice. 

Omnichannel marketing communication is a must to promote patient experiences during the awareness and consideration stage of a patient journey. Scheduling appointments can be much easier if the lead can access whichever channel they feel most comfortable using.  

Omnichannel software can also help you track digital sources from which you acquire most patients. Once you obtain such information, you can design personalized marketing campaigns and target relevant leads in the first stage of their patient journey.  

2. Automation across different departments  

Collecting patient information and segmenting them into different groups empowers you to treat them according to their unique needs. It helps personalize the patient experience and distributes leads to the respective departments at the right time. 

Automation is essential to segmenting and distributing such large groups of people according to your preferred criteria. Manually segmenting and distributing leads to the right agent can take too long and create the lengthy wait times we’ve previously mentioned. 

Healthcare firms must employ marketing automation to communicate with their audiences in a timely, tailored, and relevant manner. Compared to one-off texts, frequent automated message series typically receive more opens and generate more interaction. 

Moreover, by using automation to perform revenue-related duties, you can increase the effectiveness of your healthcare invoicing processes.  

Automating processes like payment reminders, coding changes, and personal claims filing can help you make the most of your billing and EHR software.  

A typical day for doctors and nurses involves more than 500 clicks. Such repetitive chores are excellent candidates for automation. When you automate time-consuming, minor operations, your staff can concentrate on delivering valuable care to patients in need.  

3. Meet patient expectations by obtaining relevant feedback 

Meeting patient expectations demands a high level of understanding and insight into your patients’ perspectives. You may learn more about your patient’s expectations by asking them for feedback after each visit to your clinic. 

Unless you specifically ask for input, your patients frequently won’t give you their insights. You run the danger of losing business if you don’t handle client concerns and concentrate on customer satisfaction. 

To pinpoint specific problems, you must track the responses’ patient comments using a survey or questionnaire. You can engage your patients by requesting their feedback on a regular basis and making improvements using it.  

Your patients will feel heard if you respond to their inquiries on a frequent basis and follow up with them. Utilizing patient feedback will also enable you to personalize your healthcare services. 

Customer service revolves around knowing your customer’s expectations when they’re paying for your service. Satisfaction scores and ratings as we’ve mentioned severely impact your organization’s ability to treat patients.  

Prospective patients can develop an image of your clinic in just 1-6 online reviews. Several potential patients will avoid your services if they see even a single negative review. You can handle all of these issues if you keep track of your patient feedback and respond promptly after any negative experience.  

Managing your customer experience manually can be quite challenging. But a Healthcare CRM can help you:  

  1. Manage multiple customer service touchpoints.  
  2. Follow up with patients with automated emails, messages, and texts after they visit your clinic.  
  3. Share and monitor patient information across teams.  
  4. Generate healthcare dashboards to improve team performance.  
  5. Get in touch with your patients to collect feedback.  

To improve customer experience you need to find a way to integrate sophisticated automation while retaining the human element in your end-to-end patient journey. If you’re looking to take your customer experience to the next level, you can give LeadSquared a shot today!  

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